The Team LNT Ginetta-Nissan has dominated the qualifying session for the Dunlop 24 Hours at Silverstone, blitzing the challenge from MJC and Radical Sportscars to take the pole by a margin of three seconds. Lawrence Tomlinson, Mike Simpson, Sir Chirs Hoy, Charlie Robertson and Nissan GT Academy graduate Gaetan Paletou built up slowly to their eventual pace, allowing both the MJC Ferrari and the RXC from the Radical factory a spell at the top of the timesheets.
The first to peak was the Radical, when Lawrence Wiltshire put in the cars fastest lap on the fifteenth tour. A 2:08.312 intially sent the DP-esque RXC to the top of the time sheets but Witt Gamski’s Ferrari struck back soon after. The 2012 race winners took a second and a half from the Chahin Nouri, Martyn Smith and Richard Roberts machine while Mr Simpson was being strapped into the LMP3 car.
Not long after Simpson took to the track the timing screens went purple as the ELMS racer demolished the fastest times. A 2:03.916 was much slower than the times the car put out in the European Le Mans Series opener two week ago but still gave the Ginetta factory car a 3.064 second margin over the GT2 spec MJC car.
The late entry of Peter Cook’s Audi R8 LMS took fourth overall in a solid block of five class 1 entrants. Cook shares with Phillip Hopkins, Frank Pelle, Adam Sharpe and Stephen Ritchie, the five more than making up for a late entry to the warm-up/practice session in the morning, leaving the Marco Schlep entered Porsche in its wheel tracks.
Sixth on the grid will be filled by the first of the class 2 machines, the Bathurst class winning MARC Ford Focus V8. The MARC Cars Australia team were quick from the moment they unloaded, with touring car star Tom Onslow-Cole and Strata 21 boss Paul White providing local knowledge to complement the impressive pace of Aussie pairing Ben Gersekowski and Gary Jacobson. The #91 Ford not only left several class 2 entries, including the identically-spec Team Russia by Barwell Motorsport effort, in the dust, but they managed to lap a second and a half faster than the GT3 spec Jaguar of Simon Green Motorsport.
The Simon Green car, driven by Nigel Rata, Freddy Hunt and team boss Simon Green failed to make the warm-up after scrutineering problems. That left them no time to iron out any kinks before the grid was set and a seven lap total in qualifying means the car is not only slow for its class, but on the back foot with much work to do in the night session.
Topcats Racing were rewarded for bringing the glorious noise and looks of two Marcos Mantis race cars to the 24 Hours with second and third in class. The #17 of Nigel Pike, Paul Black, Joachim Bolting and Pat Gormley performed best of the two, though the #15 struggled to get out in warm-up. Third in class, ahead of a top flight team like Barwell no less, is ample reward for their efforts.
The British GT protagonists took a bit of punishment of their own during qualifying, added to the annoyance of placing four spots behind an identical machine. The class 3 pole-sitter was not exactly a surprise, after all Beechdean Motorsport have taken both GT3 and GT4 titles with Aston Martin. What did surprise is the overall position, tenth on the grid. A 2:13.590 is a very quick time for a GT4 car at Silverstone, one almost two seconds clear of the nearest class rivals and 1.2 seconds clear of the Barwell class 2 machine.
Rollcentre Racing put their BMW M3 GTR into second in class ahead of the second of three Aston Martin Vantage GT4 machines in the field. That was the Anthony Hughes, John Gilbert, Ollie Hancock and Devon Modell driven Speedworks machine, who will line up alongside the class 4 poles-sitters.
SEAT are well represented in the field, but no team represented better than Dutch endurance specialists Bas Koeten Racing. The new shape SEAT Leon fought a long range battle with the identically equipped SICL.com entry for class supremacy, ending up split by 0.939 seconds. Both cars set their times in the dying seconds of the session and only an extra lap for the Koeten car assured them of the top spot. Karel Gils Bessem, Harry Hilders and Roger Grouwels will line up ahead of Ashley Woodman, Rob Cullum, Martin Byford and Jonny Cullum at four tomorrow afternoon where battle will surely resume.
Marcos Racing International split the class 4 top three in the Lotus Evora usually driven by Cor Euser. Instead Cor’s regular 24 hour team mates Hal Prewitt and Jim Brody are joined by Alistair MacKinnon and Dirk Schulz, with the late addition of Sam Alpass to the driving line up. The #61 BMW E46 M3 GTR of JR Motorsport’s Anglo-Dutch driver line up took the final top three spot in class.
Class 5 went to the WEC Motorsport entry of Gavin Spencer, Frank Pettit, Carey Lewis and Andy Ruthven. The quartet were unopposed in their quest for class pole as both the Ivo Breukers driven SEAT of Red Camel and the Paul Mensley entered Ford Fiesta struggled for pace. The WEC Motorsport class 4 entry, Carvell Motorsport diesel Jaguar and CHF500 Porsche all continued to struggle with their warm-up gremlins too, while APO Motorsport’s Porsche failed to turn in a single timed lap.
There is a further night qualifying session this evening though the grid will not be affected. The evening action is purely to familiarise drivers with Silverstone in the gloaming and darkness. The Dunlop 24 Hours at Silverstone gets officially underway at 4pm tomorrow.